When Darren Clarke Won The Open at Royal St George's
DARREN CLARKE won The Open at Royal St George’s at his 20th attempt, keeping his nerve to clinch his maiden major title with a three-shot victory.
The 42-year-old Northern Irishman fired a final-round 70 to finish five under to hold off Americans Phil Mickelson (68) and Dustin Johnson (72). Denmark's Thomas Bjorn ended on one under after a 71 with American trio Rickie Fowler (72), Chad Campbell (69) and Anthony Kim (70) on level par.
Clarke was the first winner from the UK since Paul Lawrie in 1999 and became only the second Northern Irishman to win the Open after Fred Daly in 1947.
He led by one from Johnson going into the last round and he showed complete control of his emotions as he smiled his way to the Claret Jug. On a day of sunny periods and fierce squalls, Clarke picked up a shot at the second, handed it back at the fourth, and then eagled the long seventh to reach the turn at seven under for a two-shot lead over Mickelson.
Four-time major champion Mickelson had started the day five strokes off the lead and played the front nine in 30, including an eagle at the seventh. The 41-year-old left-hander picked up another shot at the 10th to close the gap to one, but his wheels fell off in spectacular fashion as he missed a short putt on the 11th, the cue for four dropped shots in six holes. "It was just a stupid mistake, just a dumb mental error," he said later.
Mickleson did, though, beat his previous best Open finish of third at Royal Troon in 2004. "Oh, man, that was some of the most fun I've had competitively," he added. "I hit some of the best shots I've hit in the wind, not just today but really all week. When I saw Darren wasn't going to make a mistake and he played some great golf I had to start trying to make birdies, and that's when I ended up making a couple of bogeys.” Mickelson would, of course, go on to win at Muirfield in 2013.
Johnson had battled hard to get to five under, two behind playing partner Clarke after 13 holes, but went out of bounds on the long 14th and took a double bogey to hand the Northern Irishman a four-shot lead.
Thoughts turned to Bjorn, who had squandered a three-shot lead with four left at the same venue in 2003. But despite a bogey on the 17th, Clarke remained firm and none of his rivals could close the gap over the final few holes.
Walking down the 18th, the popular Clarke, who lost wife Heather to breast cancer in 2006, removed his visor and greeted the cheering crowd with the Claret Jug virtually secured.
A bogey was enough for the man from Dungannon as he hugged his mother and father and new fiancée Alison as the 2011 Open champion. "It is just incredible. I'm a bit speechless. I played ok today, I did what I had to do and the last few holes when I was far ahead I just tried to be careful and not do anything stupid," he told BBC Sport.
"I've been very calm all week, I won six weeks ago and the more you put yourself in winning positions the more comfortable you get. I was very comfortable with my game this week. I could hear the roars going up for Phil Mickelson on the way round but I was hitting some shots and doing ok. Professional golf has its ebbs and flows, that's the way it goes.
"It's very special for me and the kids. They were playing at Royal Portrush today and they will be very proud. The celebrations could be long and - not arduous - very enjoyable tonight."
In a perfectly presented acceptance speech Clarke said: "I've been writing this speech for 20 years now and it's been a long bumpy road.
"I've had good and bad things happen to me on the way. Sometimes I was good, sometimes I was bad but I have had so much support from everyone.
"There might be lots of Irish black stuff in this trophy this evening as I'm fond of a beverage from time to time.
"This means a lot to me and my family and as you may know there is someone up there looking down on me as well. I can't thank you enough for the support I've had this past four days. The roaring has helped me to stand here and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart."
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